A Guide to Getting Good Sleep: 8 Sleep Tips

Despite the fact that sleep is a natural human function, statistics show that 35.2% of adults don’t get enough of it. Moreover, 4% of adults use sleeping pills and don’t know how to get a good nights sleep without them. For the lucky few who know how to fall asleep instantly, you probably don’t need sleep tips, so this guide isn’t for you. For those of you in desperate need of sleep tips, keep reading to discover healthy sleep habits and sleep tips.

This guide covers everything you need to know about how to sleep better naturally, and when it’s time to seek help.

Why Do We Sleep?

Sleep is a necessary and essential part of our lives. It helps us to rest and rejuvenate our bodies, and it also helps us to consolidate our memories and learn new information. While we don’t yet fully understand why we need to sleep, there are several theories that attempt to explain it.

One theory suggests that sleep helps to clear out the “waste products” that accumulate in our brains during the day. Another theory posits that sleep helps us to conserve energy. Regardless of the reason, it’s clear that sleep is vital for our health and well-being. And many people are in dire need of a few effective sleep tips.

Matthew Walker on Why We Sleep

Matthew Walker is a sleep scientist and the author of Why We Sleep. In his book, Walker dives into the latest research on sleep and its importance for our overall health. He argues that sleep is essential for human survival and offers many benefits, including strengthening the immune system, regulating hormones, improving brain function, and reducing stress levels. According to Walker, most people need around eight hours of sleep per night in order to function at their best.

He also believes that our increasing reliance on technology is interfere with our natural sleep patterns and urges people to disconnect from devices before bedtime in order to get a good night’s rest. Despite the fact that we have only begun to understand the complexities of sleep, there is no doubt that it plays a vital role in our lives.

What Does It Mean to Get a Good Nights Sleep?

Most people know the feeling of a good night’s sleep. You wake up feeling refreshed and well-rested, ready to take on the day. But what exactly is good sleep? And how can it be quantified?

There are a few key indicators of good sleep. First, you should be able to fall asleep relatively easily and stay asleep for most of the night. You should also wake up feeling rested and rejuvenated, without the need for an alarm clock.

In addition, good sleep should leave you feeling alert and energized during the daytime hours. Finally, you should generally feel good mentally and physically after a night of good sleep.

There are a few ways to quantify good sleep. One is simply to keep track of how many hours you sleep each night and how rested you feel when you wake up. Another is to use a sleep tracker or wearable device that monitors your sleep patterns and quality.

This can give you valuable insights into how well you’re sleeping and what factors may be affecting your sleep quality. Whatever method you use, tracking your sleep can help you ensure that you’re getting the restful sleep you need to function at your best.

8 Sleep Tips to Sleep Better at Night

Most people know that getting a good night’s sleep is important for overall health and well-being. But with our busy lives, it can be hard to get the recommended seven to eight hours of shut-eye each night. If you’re struggling to get enough rest, here are eight sleep tips to help you get a better night’s sleep:

1. Establish a regular sleep schedule. Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day helps to regulate your body’s natural sleep rhythm.

2. Create a calming bedtime routine. A relaxing routine before bed can signal to your body that it’s time to wind down for the night.

3. Keep your bedroom cool, dark, and quiet. Creating an optimal sleeping environment can help you drift off to sleep more easily.

4. Avoid caffeine and alcohol before bed. Both substances can interfere with sleep.

5. Avoid screen time in the hour before bedtime. The blue light from screens can disrupt your body’s natural sleep cycle.

6. Get regular exercise. Exercise can help you fall asleep more easily and deepen your sleep. Just be sure to avoid exercising too close to bedtime.

7. Practice stress-reducing techniques such as meditation or mindfulness before bedtime. Reducing stress can improve both the quantity and quality of your sleep.

8. See a doctor if you’re still struggling to sleep despite trying these tips. There may be an underlying medical condition causing your insomnia, which a doctor can help treat.

Don’t underestimate the power of a good nights sleep

What Nutrients Can Help Your Sleep Better?

According to the National Sleep Foundation, certain nutrients can help you sleep better. The foundation recommends foods such as bananas, kiwis, salmon, whole grains and cherry juice for their sleep-promoting properties. Bananas are a good source of magnesium, which relaxes muscles and promotes sleep.

Kiwis contain serotonin, a hormone that regulates sleep. Salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory effects that can promote better sleep. Whole grains contain complex carbs that can boost serotonin levels and help you fall asleep more easily.

Cherry juice is high in melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate your body’s internal clock. By incorporating these foods into your diet, you can improve your sleep quality and get the rest you need to function at your best.

Sleep Tips For Insomnia

If you’re one of the millions of people worldwide who suffer from insomnia, you know how frustrating it can be to lie awake night after night, tossing and turning with no hope of getting a good night’s rest. Luckily, there are a few simple sleep tips you can follow to improve your sleep habits and finally get the relief you need.

Here are five sleep tips for people with insomnia:

  1. Establish a regular sleep schedule. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day, even on weekends. This will help to regulate your body’s natural sleep rhythm.
  2. Create a relaxing bedtime routine. Wind down for 30 minutes before going to bed each night by reading or taking a bath. This will help your body relax and prepare for sleep.
  3. Keep your bedroom dark, quiet, and cool. Creating an environment that is conducive to sleep will make it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night.
  4. Avoid caffeine and alcohol before bed. Both of these substances can disrupt sleep and make insomnia worse.
  5. Get up and move around during the day. Exercise has been shown to improve sleep quality, so aim for 30 minutes of moderate exercise each day.

If you follow these sleep tips, you should start to see an improvement in your insomnia symptoms. However, if your insomnia persists, please consult with a doctor or sleep specialist to rule out any underlying medical conditions that may be causing your sleeplessness. Understanding psychological disturbance and not underestimating it is paramount to getting the right treatment.

The Bottom Line

While sleep is essential to function normally and lead an energetic and productive life, many people don’t get enough of it. This is often due to not having healthy sleep habits, and people often substitute this by using sleeping pills. If you’re struggling to get good sleep, try these sleep tips. If you’re still struggling, consider seeking professional help, you may be suffering from a sleep disorder.

A Brief Introduction to Positive Psychology

The blog post briefly introduces you to positive psychology. You can instantly start practicing it by following a few methods suggested in the blog and enjoy the benefits.

Positive psychology is an emerging subfield in psychology that has been prevalent since its development in 1998 by Martin Seligman. Results from the meta-analysis show that positive psychology interventions in one’s life would improve subjective and psychological well-being, besides reducing depressive symptoms.

In this article, let’s look at what positive psychology is and the benefits it offers.

What is Positive Psychology?

Positive psychology is the study of the factors that let people live fulfilling lives. Optimizing thoughts, feelings, and behavior for a better life is its key focus. It differs from following the assumptions of the disease model–which concentrates on mental illness–by giving as much attention to the positive attributes of life.

Positive psychology began when Seligman didn’t like psychology fixating on the negatives, like mental illness, trauma, suffering, and others. Becoming president of the American Psychological Association (APA), he started a new subfield of psychology that also emphasize the positives. Positive psychology thus centers on positive experiences and traits, including, joy, love, happiness, gratitude, and compassion.

According to Seligman, positive emotion, engagement, relationships, meaning, and accomplishments (often known as PERMA) are the five elements essential for happiness and well-being. Positive psychology aims to define and pivot on these five factors to maximize its benefits.

A simple way to adopt positive psychology into one’s life would be by writing a gratitude journal. Elaborately writing what we are grateful for would immediately boost happiness. Being kind and helping others when possible is another way. Overall, having an optimistic view of life and the future will help us maintain positive emotions.

What are the Benefits of Positive Psychology?

We can broadly classify the benefits of positive psychology into two categories: happiness and better engagement.

1. Happiness

Happiness increases as people are in a positive, optimistic state. Rather than dwelling on negatives, they can embark on meaningful things that make them happy, and they will be keen to solve problems than vent. As people become more kind, generous, and confident, their relationships with others and society improve, leading them to have a greater outlook on life.

2. Better Engagement

Positive psychology includes narrowing our attention down to our strengths. We become resourceful and perform better if we work on what we are good at. By doing this, we can enter a mental state of “flow” where we fully immerse in what we do or be in the zone.

It makes us resilient and improves our ability to deal with challenges. We can lead a peaceful, purposeful life by attaining fulfillment from meaningful accomplishments.

A Bit of Optimism and Gratitude

So far, we’ve answered the question: what is positive psychology? And we looked at some relevant benefits. Living in a world that seems to have endless bad news in store, imbibing a bit of optimism and gratitude is not a bad idea. Along with working on things that improve our life, it can positively affect the overall quality of our lives.

A Memorable Life-Memoir Writing Services

Memoir writing is a unique form of autobiography that allows you to explore your life experiences in a deep and personal way. Memoirs can be written about any subject, from your childhood memories to your current career.

Memoir writing is a unique form of autobiography that allows you to explore your life experiences in a deep and personal way. Memoirs can be written about any subject, from your childhood memories to your current career.

Whether you’re looking to tell your life story from start to finish or to recount a particularly interesting time of your journey, memoir writing services can provide guidance and support throughout the process.

Memoir writing can be an excellent way to connect with your past and understand your present. It can be therapeutic, providing an outlet for emotions that might otherwise remain buried. Recollecting old memories has the potential to lead to new insights about your life and personality. 

If you’re interested in writing a memoir, there are many resources available to help you get started. You may even want to hire a memoir writer to streamline the process and make it more enjoyable.

Memoir writing services give you the opportunity to tell your story from a creative, engaging, and interesting angle.

The History of Memoirs

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The history of memoirs dates back to ancient times when historical figures such as Julius Caesar and Augustus wrote about their lives and times. In the medieval era, religious figures such as Saint Augustine and Thomas à Kempis penned memoirs about their religious experiences.

The Renaissance saw the rise of secular memoirs, such as those written by Michel de Montaigne and Giovanni Boccaccio.

Memoirs became increasingly popular in the 18th and 19th centuries, with notable examples including James Boswell’s The Life of Samuel Johnson and Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography. Memoir writing enjoyed something of a resurgence in the 20th century. 

Since then, memoirs have been written by everyone from Presidents to prisoners, providing insight into the human experience. Whether you’re looking to write a memoir yourself or simply want to better understand this genre of literature, there’s much to be learned from the history of memoirs.

Why Write a Memoir? 

Have you ever wished that you could viscerally capture the most precious moments of your life? While cameras are great for snapping the visual aspects of your life, they can’t capture that first-person subjective experience or fundamental essence of passing moments. 

Even video recordings are only mere representations of moments passed, while we can see and hear them, we have no insight into the subtle emotions, motivations, and symbolic meanings behind the sight and sound. 

What Makes It Special?

Writing a memoir with memoir writing services allows you to revisit those moments with an unrivaled dimension of depth. A memoir is so much more than just a video or a photo, it’s a story. Memoir writing services can help you create that story.

The Psychology of Life Stories

Dan P. McAdams is a psychologist who spent much of his career studying life stories. In 2006, he published a groundbreaking book called The Redemptive Self: Stories Americans Live By. In this work, he argued that life stories serve an important psychological role.

Specifically, they help us to make sense of our past experiences and to find meaning in our lives. In other words, life stories are not simply collections of facts; they’re also stories that we tell ourselves about who we are and why we’re more than just a meaningless speck in an unforgiving universe.

McAdams found that people with a strong sense of self-narrative are more likely to be happy and successful than those without it. This is because they have a clear sense of direction and purpose and are better able to cope with life’s inherent adversity.

Consequently, understanding our life stories can provide valuable insights into how to live life and self-actualize.

Unfortunately, just wanting to write a memoir isn’t enough, you’ll also need the skill to do it. Not a natural writer? Why not consider hiring memoir writing services?

Memoir Writing Services

Cerebro Somata memoir writing services are the perfect way to delve into the depths of your past and tell your story in a way that makes sense to you. You’ll get regular meetings with a writer with a background in psychology to discuss your most outstanding life experiences. 

How It Works

The process of my memoir writing services is simple, enjoyable, and cathartic and goes something like this: 

1. Initial Personality Analysis and Discussion

We’ll analyze your personality using the most well-established scales and tests and discuss the results to make sure you agree with them. Do you feel like your personality is well-represented? If so, why? If not, why not?

The initial meeting will be dedicated to getting to know you from a personal and psychological standpoint. We’ll discuss your goals for the memoir and how you’d like to approach it. Of course, you can change your mind about this at any time.

2. Weekly or Bi-weekly Meetings

We’ll meet to discuss the events you want to focus on. My psychological training has equipped me to catch the subtleties of your experiences and my writer’s brain knows how to ask the right questions.

These meetings will be recorded (with your permission) on an external device. The recordings will never be uploaded onto a computer, phone, or anywhere that they could be vulnerable to leakage.

Furthermore, after the memoir is completed, all recordings will be wiped from the face of the earth. 

3. Chapter by Chapter

Once I’ve got enough material to start writing, I’ll get to work on the first chapter. When it’s done, I’ll send it to you to get your thoughts. It’s a back and forth process and any changes you’d like to make to tone, style, or emphasis can be identified.

Once we’ve finalized the first chapter, we’ll start on the second one, and so on, and so forth. 

4. Your Complete Memoir

You’ll receive your completed memoir and can share it with your loved ones or have it published. Whatever you choose to do with your life story is your business. 

Write Your Memoir Gift

Hiring personal historian services or memoir writing services is the perfect way to honor someone’s life. Whether they’ve passed already or are looking to recollect their life’s most precious moments to achieve catharsis, memoir writing services are a great option.

Hire a Memoir Writer 

As a creative writer with a background in psychology at a top European university, I’m confident that I can artistically capture your story the way you’d like to tell it. Among the current memoir writing services available, none have the advantage of a strong psychological background. 

To get a free quote or a private link to my literary portfolio, contact me. I’ll get back to you without delay and help you write your life story.

You won’t find another memoir company or memoir website that will delve as deep as I will. Contact me to find out more.

Memoir Ghostwriting Services

A Short Excerpt from my ‘Thoughtful Review of Viktor Frankl’s ‘Man’s Search for Meaning”

One of the profound insights that are offered to readers in Viktor Frankl’s ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ is the experience of an incredible perspective shift as to the nature and quality of one’s life.

Consider that we are preoccupied with the contents of our existence, our work schedule, daily goals, life goals, past achievements, future plans, the clothes we wear, our hairstyle, our diets, our visual shape, too much fat here, too little muscle there. Alongside those mental lyrics are floating notions of the people in our lives, the quality of our relationships, partners, parents, siblings, friends, acquaintances, people who mean literally nothing to us, people we find distasteful and maybe even enemies. We further occupy ourselves with thoughts of status, money, worldly achievements, who we will remain to be when death strikes the final blow. Did we fulfill the fairy tale of glory?

By contrast, there is this reality of concentration camps, monuments of the physical torture and psychological torment that human beings inflict upon each other. Within concrete walls are genuine sadist savouring pain, starvation, infectious rotting bodies stacking up and decomposing within constant sight and reach, glaring neon evil looming over sick, dying, traumatized human creatures in every second of every day.

Such things, we never even consider might enter the landscape of our own lives, except for in the vaguest ways, such as an occasional violent and intrusive thought. Yet, they offer us the rare opportunity to reconsider our lives through the lens of a cold and brutal light. A light that subsequently transforms itself into a glow of infinite warmth and appreciation. It highlights, by means of stark contrast, the things which are so beautiful to us and in the constant reach of our immediate environment.  

In exchange for a degree of mental and emotional sensitivity ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ gives readers the gift of finding eternal bliss within one’s grasp. Reading Frankl’s story and thesis, I found myself pondering whether it is perhaps only by a certain depth of processing that sensitivity is present. The sensitivity to temporarily sacrifice a portion of comfort to try to viscerally realize the horror of such stories.

Contrastingly, Frankl illustrates instances of how an inner function of sensitivity enriched life within the concentration camps.

He states, ‘In spite of all the enforced physical and mental primitiveness of the life in a concentration camp, it was possible for spiritual life to deepen. Sensitive people who were used to a rich intellectual life may have suffered much pain (they were often of a delicate constitution), but the damage to their inner selves was less. They were able to retreat from their terrible surroundings to a life of inner riches and spiritual freedom’.

Episode 2 – Psychedelics, Science & Spirituality

Marion Gildea is a Master’s research intern in the field of Psychedelic Medicine at Imperial College London. In this podcast conversation, we discuss the current position of psychedelic research, its potential for clinical usage, depth psychology, and spirituality.
We discuss the subconscious mind as a sort of unknown entity that dictates behaviour from unseen corners, and how different approaches, including modern psychology and ancient Buddhist philosophy view this phenomenon.

In this episode I speak with Marion Gildea, a Master’s research intern in the field of Psychedelic Medicine at Imperial College London.

In this conversation, we discuss the current position of psychedelic research, its potential for clinical usage, depth psychology, and spirituality. We discuss the subconscious mind as a sort of unknown entity that dictates behaviour from unseen corners of the psyche, and how different approaches, including modern psychology and ancient Buddhist philosophy approach this phenomenon.

We go into detail about psychedelic research, what the experience is like for psychedelic research volunteers who participate in psychedelic research. We discuss the essence of the spiritual experience that often accompanies being under the influence of psychedelics, and the difficulty in reconciling those feelings with our scientific understanding of the nature of reality.

Still being in the early days of podcasting, please forgive the sound quality. We will be looking toward making a number of improvements as time goes by and hope it doesn’t stop you from enjoying the conversation all the same.

If this is something you are interested in, I encourage to follow or subscribe to the website. Alternatively, you could like our Facebook page, as all published material will be posted there!

Pushing Up Daisies: Mindfulness & Death Anxiety

A deep reflection on approaches toward death. A review of popular theories on death anxiety with a scientifically supported narrative on the role of mindfulness in death-related anxiety.

Death is one of those topics of conversation that really illustrates the starkly contrasting and fundamentally different ways of approaching life. Some people (including me) can’t seem to get it off their minds, off the tip of their tongue. It is the backdrop of every scene of our lives, every decision we make is driven by the engine of death-related thoughts. We perpetually try to solve the puzzle of how to die peacefully, how to die painlessly and how to deal with grief when it comes, if it hasn’t already. Others suppress it, avoiding thinking and talking about it at basically all costs, understandably, not wanting to engage in painful, morbid topics of discussion.

Recently, I have become obsessively interested in what all of this might mean, namely, what the meaning behind these differing strategies toward death-related thoughts might be. I kept noticing how differently people react to death being brought up in conversation. I found it equally disturbing as I did interesting how bringing up death in a discussion could lead one person to become so viscerally angry with me for ‘ruining the vibe’ while with another person, it can generate profound and engaging conversations. What is the fundamental difference between these two kinds of people? How does it correspond with other areas of life?

As part of a research project at university, I chose to study this exact topic, and I would like to share my findings with you here. Of course, if you are the kind of person that feels your skin crawl when you hear the word ‘death’, you may have already stopped reading. If you haven’t, however, I would urge you to try to bear it until the end of this article, as you might well find something useful in it.

The findings from my research support the hypothesis that mindful processing, rather than suppression of death-related thoughts, results in better life outcomes. Results from studies I have reviewed support this finding, within the framework of an old and broadly cited theory of death anxiety, Terror Management Theory.

Terror Management Theory

This theory posits that we humans have an underlying awareness of our own mortality, which serves as a source of devastating anxiety that is largely repressed and combatted against. To buffer against this anxiety or terror, we place great importance on our cultural worldview and self-esteem, in a sort of attempt to achieve immortality through legacy.

The meaning, structure, and sense of belonging we achieve by acting and thinking in such ways that boost our self-esteem, front as a sort of protective shield against the truthful notion of our own mortality. I have come across several professors who seem to find this theory rather distasteful, but I cannot, for the life of me, understand why.

Terror management theory has been supported in over 400 empirical studies, across more than 20 countries. To me, this vast range of support is suggestive that this strategy towards mortality salience (death awareness) is in some sense universal, given that it is relatively easy to detect in individuals cross-culturally. However, is it the optimal approach to thoughts of death?

The Problem with Disregarding Death

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Science is often regarded as the most effective method of uncovering the truth. Whether that truth is of a pleasant or unpleasant nature is irrelevant in the wake of objectivity. In another sense, there is nothing truer than the fact that we are mortal, yet many of us actually use a certain level of our cognitive computational power to suppress this harrowing fact of life, the fact of death.

We differ from all other species with regards to our awareness of our inevitable death. It is not obvious what the evolutionary purpose of this awareness might be (if there even is one) but what is clear is that the system of death-related thought suppression that is in place in many of us with regards to this topic, is not the optimal strategy that could be employed. What is clear is that there are some real consequences involved in abiding by the normative taboo in discussing and reflecting upon death.

One heart-breaking example of the dire consequences of this taboo comes from a story of a 94-year-old man, in the intensive care unit in John Hopkins hospital, who has become too frail to speak for himself. His daughter, when confronted by the case doctor and asked, ‘Did you ever plan for what should be done should a situation like this arise?’, responded with disgust and shock at the doctor’s question saying ‘of course not!’ in an offended tone.

This is just one real-life example of the statistic that only 1 in 200 people have a plan set in place for their family after they die, and only 1 in 500 people have a plan in place for if they become too frail to represent themselves (which is what will happen to most of us).

Given that these are obviously not ideal circumstances (to be so unprepared), there seems to be some very consequential dissonance between outcomes we would rather have in life and the normative model we use. For all its faults and follies, religion presented one positive thing for humans, in that its promotion of an afterlife buffered us against death anxiety. Since the western departure from religion during the scientific revolution, what have we done to replace this buffer?

If indeed Terror Management Theory is an accurate description, it would suggest that we have simply opted to zoom in to our self-esteem, dedicating our mental faculties to becoming evermore egocentric. This theory becomes far easier to swallow when we simply look around to see how people behave on social media, platforms for people to write their autobiographical story, in which the immortal legacy of their characters and work surpass our physical mortality in importance.

The Dual Process Model of Terror Management

So, terror management theory says that we suppress thoughts of death and buffer against death anxiety using self-esteem. You might be wondering exactly how that works in real-time. The dual-process model of terror management takes a closer look at the dynamics of how that works.

This model basically says that we use two defence types when faced with mortality salience cues. The first defence type, known as proximal (immediate) defences, get activated immediately after being exposed to a ‘mortality salience cue’. A mortality salience cue is just some external stimulus that prompts awareness of death, a picture of a coffin. for example.

The common proximal defence that people used in the studies that tested this model were people’s intention to engage in health behaviours. In other words, when people were faced with death cues, they combatted the anxiety by promising themselves to live healthier lives by say, quitting smoking, exercising more or eating a healthier diet. The end goal of proximal defences is to get these death-related thoughts out of conscious awareness, as fast and effectively as possible.

When this happens, the second defence type becomes active, the distal defence (measured after a delay period). Distal defences come into play when death thoughts are outside the scope of focal attention, but still ‘accessible’. These defences focus on promoting the image of the symbolic self, promoting self-esteem. Interestingly, and to further support terror management theory as a whole, people with lower self-esteem reported higher levels of death anxiety when measured after this delay period.

The Role of Mindfulness in Death Anxiety

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Mindfulness is the backbone of eastern philosophy, it has roots in all schools of Buddhism, Yoga and Taoism. It can be defined as the objective awareness of the present moment. The psychological and physical health benefits of mindfulness and meditation are not anything new. It has been occupying the attention of many psychological researchers since its stance to popularity in recent years. It has been studied both in basic and clinical settings.

Due to the nature of this concept, it has been difficult to study it as a psychological construct. Some have more of a propensity toward mindfulness than others, yet it can also be effectively learned through the practice of meditation. A recent study came up with a new measure of trait mindfulness, referred to as ‘end-state mindfulness’. This is the tendency of an individual to see things as they are in the moment, without attaching subjective judgments to perceptual experiences.

This ‘end state mindfulness’ was found, in the same study, to be negatively correlated with rumination, thought suppression and neuroticism. It was also found to moderate the negative effect usually associated with the exposure of mortality salience cues.

Mindfulness can be thought of as an exemplar of the experiential mode of conscious processing (Teasdale*, 1999), which seems to be a formidably opposing force to terror management, which aims to suppress.

In line with this conceptualization of mindfulness, a series of experiments and studies examined whether trait mindfulness reduced the defensive responses to death awareness cues. It turns out it does. Results from these studies showed the positive relationship between mindfulness and self-esteem, the usual buffer against thoughts of death. But rather than buffering, it was shown that mindfulness predicted reduced suppression of death, and those who scored higher on trait mindfulness, spent longer when doing a writing exercise about their own death. They were more willing to sit down and consciously process thoughts of dying.

This series of seven studies were the first to examine the role of mindfulness in terror management theory, and collectively they show that mindfulness reduces the engagement in both proximal and distal defences. Rather they promote the unbiased, conscious processing of death. Mindfulness has been shown to increase our empathy and concern for others  and promote the endorsement of intrinsic (personal growth and development), rather than extrinsic (wealth and status) goals.

This becomes very interesting when we look at the relationship between intrinsic and extrinsic goal orientation and subjective feeling of life satisfaction in the face of death awareness. One recent study found that those with more extrinsic goal orientations were more likely to process these cues as unpleasant threats and those with more intrinsic goal orientations were more likely to experience them as meaningful reflective experiences. This suggests that mindfulness is a contrasting strategy to terror management strategy that results in a qualitatively better attitude toward both life and death.

So, on one end of the spectrum, you have people that suppress thoughts of dying, they rely on the quality of their self-esteem to combat death anxiety. This is unfortunate for people will less self-esteem because they are likely to experience greater levels of death-related anxiety. On the other end of the spectrum, you have mindful people, who process thoughts of dying consciously and deliberately. They are not only more empathic people but they also (because of having intrinsic goal orientations) report higher levels of life satisfaction. People who process death reflectively are also more likely to engage in prosocial behaviour in the workplace compared to their anxious counterparts, who withdraw and engage in self-protective behaviours.

Last thoughts

The thing is, we are all going to die, and so is everyone we know. Many of them will go before us and we will be left to deal with the grief of their absence. We have every right to be anxious about death, it’s the worst possible thing, that will definitely happen to all of us. Although, just because it’s painful to think about, it doesn’t mean that we should just avoid thinking about it all together. As illustrated in the above example of the 94-year-old man, never having a conversation with his daughter about the possibility of him dying, we can see how this can lead to undesirable outcomes.

Mindfulness has proven its mettle for being capable of bringing improvement and positivity to so many areas of human life, quelling death anxiety is no exception. If we know that this mindful processing of death related thoughts leads us to have greater subjective feelings of life satisfaction, more empathy for others and be more prosocial to those we work with, why would we choose to continue suppressing thoughts of death?

Of course, many of the studies mentioned above were correlational in nature, and as social psychological studies (which often are not replicable) the result should be taken tentatively.

If this is something you are interested in, I encourage to follow or subscribe to the website. Alternatively, you could like our Facebook page, as all published material will be posted there!

References

Greenberg, J. P. (1997). Terror management theory of self-esteem and cultural. Academic Press.

Goldenberg, N. A. (2011). No atheists in foxholes: Arguments for (but not against) afterlife belief buffers mortality salience effects for atheists. British Journal of Social Psychology

Let’s talk about dying – Peter Saul – TedTalk

Bastien Trémolière, W. D.-F. (2013). The grim reasoner: Analytical reasoning under. Thinking & Reasoning.

Andrew A. Abeyta, J. J. (2014). Exploring the effects of self-esteem and mortality salience on
proximal and distally measured death anxiety

Tom Pyszczynski, J. G. (1999). A Dual-Process Model of Defense Against Conscious and
Unconscious. e American Psychological Association, Inc.

Brown, K. W. (2005). Are psychological and ecological well-being compatible? The role of values,
mindfulness, and lifestyle. Social Indicators Research, 74, 349–368

Noguchi, K. (2017). Mindfulness as an end-state: construction of a trait measure. Mississippi :
Elsevier

Donald, J. N. (2019). British Journal of Psychology (2019), 110, 101–125© 2018 The British
Psychological Does your mindfulness benefit others?

Niemiec, C. P. (2010). Being Present in the Face of Existential Threat: The Role of Trait. American Psychological Association

Vail, K. E. (2019). Pushing up daisies: Goal orientations, death awareness, and satisfaction with life.
Elsevier

Grant, A. (2009). The Hot and Cool of Death Awareness at Work: Mortality Cues, Aging, and Self-Protective and Prosocial Motivations

Mindfulness & Trauma

A short overview on trauma and how it effects our lives. Mindfulness in relation to the healing of trauma accompanied by quotes on mindfulness by well-renowned teachers.

Trauma is an individual’s response to a deeply distressing event. It can overwhelm us with crippling anxiety, dictating our thoughts and behaviours. Trauma is relative. One single event could mean absolutely nothing to one individual, while it could totally scar the life of another.

Many of us are dealing with trauma, from our childhoods, past events we have encountered, people we’ve met. It steals our peace and objectivity, replacing the contents of our mind with terrible thoughts and anticipation about our immediate external environment. This is the psychological construct known as ‘catastrophic rumination’.

In a lot of cases, people are not aware that they are still subject to the negative thoughts and habit patterns that they have accumulated through life. How can we fix a problem that we are not even aware of? The simple answer is that we can’t.

How Can Mindfulness Help?

Mindfulness, the maintenance of objective awareness of the present moment, helps us to stop resisting reality. It can be quite accurately conceptualized as the opposite of ‘catastrophic rumination’, which always assumes and prepares for the worst.

Even from this very basic theoretical standpoint, it’s easy to see why mindfulness is a great companion to psychotherapy in healing trauma. It’s easy to see why Oxford University has dedicated an entire masters programme for Mindfulness Behavioural Therapy.

Mindfulness has been proven as an effective treatment for decreasing anxiety, depression and obsessive-compulsive behaviours. It has been shown to be a powerful tool in decreasing death anxiety, something that many of us are subconsciously or consciously traumatized by.

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is the most severe manifestation of trauma. There is sufficient evidence to say that mindfulness combats it, by mitigating the negative thought patterns, or catastrophic thoughts which usually perpetuate the terrible cycle of trauma.

Mindfulness Quotes

Sometimes the best way to understand what something is, in this case what mindfulness is, is to understand the characteristics of it, rather than simply being told a definition.

In Zen and Tao philosophy, the teachings are never directly explained, instead the students are given the characteristics of it and they begin to understand it in an experiential way rather than by intellectually conquering it.

With mindfulness, you can say what it is all you want, but until you experience the actual balance and equilibrium that is induced by being in a fully mindful state, you don’t really know what it is.

I would like to include some quotes about mindfulness here, by various well renowned mindfulness teachers.

Mindful Quotes by Jon Kabat-Zinn

Mindfulness is a way of befriending ourselves and our experience.

Mindfulness means being awake. It means knowing what you are doing.

Wherever you go, there you are.

To let go means to give up coercing, resisting, or struggling, in exchange for something more powerful and wholesome which comes out of allowing things to be as they are without getting caught up in your attraction to or rejection of them, in the intrinsic stickiness of wanting, of liking and disliking.

 When we speak of meditation, it is important for you to know that this is not some weird cryptic activity, as our popular culture might have it. It does not involve becoming some kind of zombie, vegetable, self-absorbed narcissist, navel gazer, “space cadet,” cultist, devotee, mystic, or Eastern philosopher. Meditation is simply about being yourself and knowing something about who that is

Mindfulness Quotes by Thich Nhat Hanh

Breathing in, I calm body and mind. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment I know this is the only moment.

Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves — slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future.

The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it.

Smile, breathe and go slowly.

Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet

Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.

If this is something you are interested in, I encourage to follow or subscribe to the website. Alternatively, you could like our Facebook page, as all published material will be posted there!

References

Catastrophizing, rumination, and reappraisal prospectively predict adolescent PTSD symptom onset following a terrorist attack

Mindfulness and PTSD

The Emerging Role of Mindfulness Meditation as Effective Self-Management Strategy, Part 1: Clinical Implications for Depression, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Anxiety

Effects of a Brief Mindfulness Induction on Death-Related Anxiety

Dementia Throughout History

Author takes us briefly through the the harrowing history of the treatment of dementia patients,. Walking through from ancient times to the modern day, take a look at how the development of medical and neuroscientific knowledge occurred.

What is Dementia?

Dementia is the modern term that we use to describe a collection of diseases of the brain, like Alzheimer’s Disease, Lewy Body Dementia, or Vascular Dementia. These diseases vary in their symptoms, but all share these common features.

  • Loss in ability to think
  • Loss in memory
  • Decrease in ability to make decisions

Dementia will affect between one in ten and one in twenty of all people over the age of 60 worldwide. Dementia has been affecting people at this rate since the beginning of mankind. Historically, different cultures have treated dementia patients differently throughout time, sometimes barbarically. In this article I will take you through the ages, and try to give you an understanding of how dementia patients were treated or described by the famous doctors of these times.

Ancient Greece

Pythagoras, arguably the most interesting philosopher of all time, considered life to be a progression through stages. The last two stages of life were considered ‘old age’. These two stages included features like the decline of both the body and mind, matching the dementia symptoms of today. Importantly, these later stages were considered by Pythagoras to be essential to life, and therefore dementia was not seen as a problem to be solved.

A couple of centuries later came Hippocrates, a philosopher known for his incredible and longstanding contributions to medicine. At the time, Hippocrates separated mental disorders into several classifications, such as mania, insanity, disobedience, paranoia, and hysteria. He believed that treatment of these so-called ‘diseases of the soul’ required a health-care model that included physical exercise, massages, diets, as well as divine treatment. However, he still believed that these ‘diseases of the soul’ were caused by the brain, and should be treated as physical disorders.

Plato also believed that dementia was a disease of the soul. He thought that to truly heal our soul, we must be the ones to do it. This led to a great deal of Plato’s patients sitting in large, open rooms by yourself for extended periods of time as a form of treatment. Asclepius, another Greek philosopher, claimed that music could be used as a therapy to treat diseases of the soul, a practice that has transformed from imaginary to medical over the years.

As a side note, Pythagoras was also one of the first physicians to push the idea of ‘encephalocentricism’, or the idea that the brain was the center of consciousness. Other philosophers of the same time period believed in ‘cardiocentrism’, or the idea that the heart is the center of intelligence.

Ancient Rome

Cicero, a Roman philosopher, wrote a book titled ‘On Old Age’ in the year before he was executed for royal treason at the age of 82. Cicero, in ‘On Old Age’, did not believe in the ‘fallacy’ of memory loss as you got older. He cleverly remarked in his book that “an old man never forgets where he had hidden his money”. He believed that losing your memory in age was a mere projection of the apathy of old men to the regular plights of young ones. He likely drew a line between dementia and growing old, as this was the beginning of an era of scientific discovery that would mark the beginning of something that resembled medicine as we know it today. 

Galen, the so-called ‘father of neuroscience’, was the first of the Roman physicians to put a name to dementia, calling  it ‘morosis’. Galen described morosis as the loss of memory and the loss of reason. These are two of the key symptoms of dementia that we use today. Whilst Galen did treat dementia as a disease, it was thought to be a side-effect of growing old and therefore; incurable.  

The Dark Ages

It would  be in later years that a stigma would begin to form around dementia. Although Hippocrates established medical science as we know it today, there was a significant backslide away from science and research in the western parts of the world, due in large part to the rise of the Christian church. This, as well as the endorsement of a book by the Pope, led to the horrific tales of witchcraft and stake-burning.

By the Middle Ages, medical literature was almost non-existent. Tales of red-hot iron treatments for hemorrhoids, bloodletting, and metal catheters plagued the streets of the justly-called Dark Ages. Dementia patients were represented to the general public as demon-possessed witches, too dangerous to keep around. 

The 1486 medical tale, “Malleus Maleficarum”, or the Hammer of the Witches, provided the simplest Alzheimer’s cure that exists: burning on the stake. The Hammer of the Witches was endorsed by the pope at the time, Pope Innocent VIII, and contributed to the brutal persecution of mostly women throughout the 16th and 17th centuries. The bodies of hundreds of thousands of innocent, confused, and terrified men and women have been charred since 1486 in a practice that still continues to this day in some parts of the world. 

The Early Modern Era

It wasn’t until the 18th century, with the rise of anatomical dissection of human bodies and brains that scientists were able to point to a physical symptom of dementia, that being the degradation of the brain. At the time there were many different academic groups functioning throughout Europe, and many of these believed that there was only one mental illness: insanity. All other mental diseases were still considered insanity, but just of varying degrees. Dementia was known as the final stage of insanity. 

Even during this time of supposed enlightenment those living with dementia were confined to asylums and ‘treated’ with barbaric frontal lobe lobotomy – the frontal part of your brain would be separated from the rest of it; normally through the eye socket. 

The ‘Modern’ Era

It wasn’t until 1880 that the idea of dementia as a diagnosis would be separated from the umbrella term of insanity. At this point there was a reorganization of patients to put Vascular Dementia and senile dementia in their own class of disease. It took until 1908, when Dr Alois Alzheimer discovered the presence of specific forms of brain degeneration in a young patient, that Alzheimer’s disease would be separated again. Lewy Body Dementia would be separated in a similar way, as Dr Friederich Lewy discovered abnormal brain deposits in a patient during 1912. 

Today

Today, the idea of throwing family members in asylums or burning them at stake sound repulsive, but that doesn’t mean that the stigma of being diagnosed with a cognitive disease doesn’t resonate deeply with people of today. 

Oftentimes patients will shy away from the diagnosis of incurable diseases, not wanting to be considered a burden or a liability. We have a long way to go before we cure dementia, and but we should be looking back to the early Greek Philosophers to see how they treated dementia patients; as they were treated in life, with dignity and respect.

What Can You Do to Prevent Dementia?

  • Avoid inhaling anything that isn’t air
  • Stay at a healthy weight, whatever that might be for you
  • Try and exercise for at least 30 minutes per day
  • Stay mentally and socially involved, especially as you age
    • Read books, join community clubs, have hobbies!
  • Have the correct genetics: this is a big one. 

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Understanding Psychological Disturbance

An argument for the for the important of understanding psychological distress for the general population. Anecdotes, examples and scientific reference.

The purpose of this post is to provide an argument for why I think it is important for people in general, rather than just those of us studying or practicing psychology, to understand at least a bit about the nature of psychological disorders. A psychological disorder is a pattern of abnormal thoughts, feelings and behaviours which lead to disturbances in the lives of those suffering from it, and those close to them.

The main component of my argument is that psychology is the study of the human mind, how it operates and how it responds to its environment. Seeing as we are all human, it is necessarily of primary importance for us to understand it to at least some degree.

Just How Common Is It?

The statistic from John Hopkins Medicine states that 1 in 4 people suffer from a mental illness in a given year. In a large proportion of these cases, they will be suffering from more than one mental disorder simultaneously. This statistic does not include the further 10-13% percent of people who suffer from the dysfunctions of having a personality disorder. I suspect that the real statistic is in fact, much higher.

Not everyone seeks help, which can be the case for a number of different reasons, not least because we still have not fully overcome the stigmatizing at a universal level. Also, the very nature of some of these disorders can be the driving factor preventing people from seeking help and contributing to the statistics.

 It would make sense for this to be especially true for certain personality disorders with paranoid and antisocial elements, as seeking help is directly in opposition to the nature of these personality types. Those suffering from paranoia are already on edge, thinking that people are out to get them, and being diagnosed as paranoid would, in their eyes, be another avenue for people to persecute them.

Why Is It Important?

Given these statistics and the gregarious nature of the human being, I think it is safe to say that the probability that we could manage to go through life, without ever having to come into close, meaningful contact with the effects of psychological problems, is astronomically low.

 Furthermore, the diagnosis of a psychological disorder is not always black and white, and there is plenty of mental suffering to be found within the grey areas. For example, to be clinically diagnosed with a particular mental disorder, one would have to meet a certain number of the diagnostic criteria. If for example, there are eight diagnostic features, of which one needs to meet six to fully qualify for that disorder, what happens to the people who meet five criteria rather than six? How about those who meet a substantial amount of the criteria for not only one, but several mental disorders? They would not be clinically diagnosed with anything, but to say this means they are not subject to psychological dysfunction would be ridiculous.

Therefore, I think simply understanding the different elements of psychological disorders can really help us to identify what are the different things that can go wrong with the human mind? What aspects of our personalities and behaviours are dysfunctional? How might we target them and try to improve them?

Mood Disorders

Mood disorders are disorders which effect people at the state level, meaning that they distort the mood or emotional state of the afflicted individual. Examples of such disorders are major depressive disorder, anxiety and anxiety related disorders, bipolar, mania just to name a few. These disorders are ego dystonic, what this means is that the manifestations and symptoms are not in harmony with or reflections of the individuals actual personality. A person may be quite open and extroverted at the trait level, but as a result of being burdened with depression, they withdraw from socializing and say no to invites to social events. Being able to recognize these patterns and identifying the incongruencies with their usual behaviour patterns, understanding the nature of what they are going through can help us to generate greater degrees of empathy and patience for them, or even ourselves. Am I wrong to presume that this can only be a positive thing?

Personality Disorders

This category of disorders is really a whole other ball game, and some of them are just about near impossible to treat. However, that doesn’t mean that we cannot benefit immensely from being aware of them and optimize how we approach them when life throws them our way. Unlike mood disorders, they are ego-syntonic, which basically means that the behaviours associated with them, really are reflections of that individual’s actual personality, at the trait level. It’s kind of just the way they are. Let’s take the example of antisocial personality, more commonly known as psychopathy. Psychopathic people, as we all know, are notorious for their inability to feel empathy, how can you treat that? Many ardent researchers have tried and failed. Something that seems like a good idea at face value, like administering them doses of oxytocin ( the hormone responsible for social bonding) renders volatile results. It some cases it seemed to have a positive effect, but in a substantial proportion of trials, it made them worse.

It has proven rather difficult to just make them feel empathy, when their genetic and neurological make up, simply does not permit it. Being able to recognize traits of this disorder, could save many of us a lot of pain. When we are dealing with the likes of narcissistic and psychopathic individuals, it would serve us well to understand their boundaries, before subjecting ourselves to abuse and manipulation. Without understanding the true nature of the problem, many of us are liable to think that the problem is us, repeatedly trying and failing to mend relationships and get something from them which simply cannot be gotten.

Why Some and Not Others?

There are a vast sea of reasons and factors which influence whether or not someone will end up with mental disturbances. I will not go through each of them in detail here, but rather just talk a little about the backbone of it all. The gene-environment interplay.

Most of us are familiar with the nature- nurture argument. Do you think we are born like this? Or do we become like this over time? Good questions. The truth appears to be somewhere in the middle.

A series of twin studies in Northern Europe, which involved huge databases of twins either growing up in the same environment or in separate adopted households, revealed how much of a role genetics really plays. It plays a huge role not only for our susceptibility for developing certain types of physical illness throughout our life, but also for mental illness, and interestingly, personality traits!

Nature Nurture?

The genetic heritability for personality traits is in and around the 50% ballpark, more accurately between 40 – 60%, depending on the trait in question. If you have open minded and hardworking parents, the likelihood that you will be open minded and hardworking is significantly higher than someone who doesn’t. This is true, even if you have never met your parents, which rules out the environmental factors. Also, as time goes by, the older we get, the more we abide by the nature of our genetic code, and the less our environment plays a role. However, this is true for ordinary circumstance, of course and abnormally harsh environment would have a larger effect.

So, we are built in a certain way, and we are also subject to the influences of our environment. Though, two people in the same environment, say two nonrelated children in the same adopted household, are still likely to grow up to be quite different. They have different genetic code, and they are responding to the same environment, but in distinctly different ways. This is the gene-environment interplay, in short, how our genetic make up responds to our environment.

Cognitive Behavioural Model

There are also other reasons why one may become psychologically dysfunctional. One note worthy model, is the cognitive behavioural model. According to this, our engagement in negative and dysfunctional cognitions plays a huge role. In cognitive behavioural therapy we would focus on firstly identifying these dysfunctional cognitions, what they consist of, when they occur, and so on. We would then set out to target them and put efforts in to rectify the negative patterns of thought. This has shown to be a rather effective form of treatment, which would propose some truth to the cognitive behavioural model.

The Utility of Understanding Cognitions

ISABELLA CARAPELLA

Something that I found particularly useful to have learned, and hope can be useful for others, is the concept of rumination and catastrophic thinking. These concepts pertain to anxiety and anxiety related disorders. Although, I have not ever been diagnosed with such a disorder, the experience of anxiety is for me, like many others, very real.

Ruminations can be considered deep, persistent, and intense thoughts, and in relation to anxiety, they are often catastrophic. Assuming the worst, preparing for the worst, remembering the worst.

Pre-event rumination refers to the catastrophic thoughts one has before coming into contact with a particular event. The event could be anything, a social event, an exam, a job interview. This is a common phenomenon for individuals with high levels of anxiety. Just by having these catastrophic thoughts, we put ourselves in a state of heightened anxiety and experience physiological changes. Our body temperature rises, our heart rate increases, our perspiration becomes excessive. By the time we actually come in contact with the event in question, we are in such a state of anxiety, both psychologically and physiologically. Anything that occurs will be associated with those visceral anxious feelings.

With anxiety, we are essentially warping reality with our minds, processing the occurrence of otherwise neutral events as catastrophic and terrible. Upon leaving the event in question, we enter into the post-event rumination phase, wherein we are recalling the contents of the encounter with a similar sense of catastrophe. We further consolidate the memory as something terrible and traumatic, so by the next time we are exposed to a similar event, we have all of these dysfunctional memories associated with it. This creates a very vicious cycle.

However, simply knowing about this phenomenon, being aware and able to identify these cognitions, gives us the window of opportunity to hack them in a sense. Once we know when and how they are occurring, we can dedicate our mental faculties to dismantling them and rectifying the damage. We cannot fix a problem that we are not aware of.

The Purpose of this Series

This article is meant as a sort of introduction to a series of articles still to come, the purpose of which will be to shed some light of topics of mental disorders. In this series, the most common mood disorders will be discussed in fair detail. We will be writing about some of the research pertaining to the nature, causes, and the available treatments for a range of these disorders. Additionally, we will dive into the world of personality disorders, of which there are 10, discussing them one by one.

If this is something you are interested in, I encourage to follow or subscribe to the website. Alternatively, you could like our Facebook page, as all published material will be posted there!

References

John Hopkins Statistics For Mental Disorders

Statistic For Prevalence of Personality Disorders

CHRONIC MOOD DISORDER AND DEPRESSIVE PERSONALITY

The Role of Oxytocin in Antisocial Personality Disorders: A Systematic Review of the Literature

The Impact of Perceived Standards on State Anxiety, Appraisal Processes, and Negative Pre- and Post-event Rumination in Social Anxiety Disorder

CLASSICAL TWIN STUDIES AND BEYOND (Dorret Boomsma, Andreas Busjahn, and Leena Peltonen)

Gene-Environment Interaction in Psychological Traits and Disorders

Psychology & Conspiracy

Grapples with the multiple definitions of ‘conspiracy theory’. A scientifically supported narrative of the world of conspiracy theories.

Definitions of ‘Conspiracy Theory’

There are several definitions of the term ‘conspiracy theory’ floating around, both in the mainstream and in scientific literature. Let us examine a few of them here. The following is the Oxford definition: ‘a belief that some covert but influential organization is responsible for an unexplained event.’

Another, proposed by Van der Linder, is ‘A conspiracy theory purports that some covert and powerful individual(s), organization(s) or group(s) are intentionally plotting to accomplish some sinister goal’

A definition used is another study ‘Conspiracy theories can be treated as both rational narratives of the world as well as outcomes of underlying maladaptive traits’.

And yet, another definition commonly encountered in relevant literature. ‘A conspiracy theory usually refers to a subset of false narratives in which the ultimate cause of an event is believed to be due to a malevolent plot by multiple actors working together’.

The Problem of Multiple Definitions

The lack of consensus on a clear definition seems problematic. Upon closer inspection you will see that there is nothing in the former three definitions that imply that the theory is intrinsically false, only that it is alternative and involves conspiring forces.

The latter definition is closer to the implication of the falsehood of such theories, but falls short by using the word ‘usually’. This is problematic for the coherent categorization of alternative or anti-establishment theories as true or false. It lacks conscientiousness and does not provide us with a clear framework on which to operate, when investigating the causes, correlations and effects of the belief in these theories. It enables us to categorize any alternative-to-mainstream theory, that involves conspiring parties as a ‘conspiracy theory’. Which, although not explicitly stated in the definition, is generally presumed to be false.  

Did Hitler not conspire against the Jewish people? Was Julius Caeser not conspired against by the group of senators that eventually murdered him? Does believing in these historical events make me a conspiracy theorist?  I hope this is enough to illustrate the convoluted nature of a having multiple definitions for a word that is so frequently used in both mainstream and science.

This Review

For the pragmatic purpose of being able to continue with my narrative, to be able to justifiably include results from various studies, I will set the definition as ‘an alternative, unpopular view involving the covert conspiracy of influential forces’.

However, I would like it to be made clear that I am not making any assumptions about whether such theories are true or false. There is an overwhelming amount of ‘conspiracy theories’, some far more difficult to swallow than others. I have not addressed them and falsified them one by one, nor do I believe, has anybody. The remainder of this post is simply to review some surrounding factors involving conspiracy theories.

I will review some individual (internal) and environmental (external) factors that predict the belief in such theories, alongside the effects of conspiracist ideation on a societal and individual level.

What causes belief in conspiracy theories?

Results from a representative survey in the U.S reported that half of the American public believes in at least one conspiracy theory. This raises concern, considering it’s correlation with negative health and psychological outcomes.

Social unrest, uncertainty and the occurrence of very consequential events results in an increase in conspiratorial thinking. This is reflected by the serious rise in conspiratorial ideation that has occurred in parallel with the Covid-19 pandemic.  Some researchers have suggested that this is a type of defensive response to a complex problem. This perspective states that conspiracy theories help to regulate levels of acute stress prescribing an all-encompassing explanation for an otherwise very complicated problem. It does this by reinstalling the sense of order, control and predictability, after exposure to an external threat.

Conspiracy and personality

There are several individual factors that predict the belief in conspiracy theories. Studies have shown that people with a higher level of education, socioeconomic status and analytical thinking are less likely to endorse such theories. They also suggest that individuals who are mistrustful and cynical by nature tend to engage more in conspiratorial thinking. This brings me to an interesting personality type.

The Schizotypal Personality

GP PSYCHOLOGY

The bells of familiarity will ring for many of us when we hear about a character, more likely male, that is somewhat detached from society and social relationships. This character is often considered a loner, and usually has very strange supernatural and superstitious beliefs. They are often paranoid about the intentions and loyalty of other people, even those who are presumably close friends of family members.

Such individuals often endorse the existence of a magical realm and have strange perceptual experiences accompanying their strange beliefs. They likely experience a good deal of social anxiety, and sometimes lack the appropriate emotional responses, often appearing dull to others. They are not loners because they do not have social contacts, rather they isolate themselves by choice, feeling that nobody understands them. This is the Schizotypal personality.

Due to its maladaptive nature, it is considered a disorder, and resides on the lower end of the schizophrenic spectrum. It turns out that the Schizotypal personality is a very strong predictor of conspiratorial thinking, which makes sense when considering their intrinsically mistrusting nature.

In my opinion, it is not the role of mental health professionals to tell others whether their philosophical world view is right or wrong, and none of us can say with full certainty whether there are ‘supernatural’ elements to our world. This will remain true as long as we do not know everything about the universe. However, what is helpful, is aiding people in understanding what elements of their cognitions are resulting in their own suffering, and helping people make informed choices about how to orient their lives.

Consequences of Conspiracist Ideation

Although we cannot say whether the long list of all conspiracy theories out there are true or false, we can measure what effect the have on society.

We know that exposure to conspiracy theories decreases willingness to engage in politics and reduces prosocial behaviour, namely, reducing one’s carbon footprint. It also predicts the tendency and willingness to engage in everyday crime. Furthermore, it is associated with higher levels of anxiety.

A Suggested Antidote to False Beliefs

Don’t just believe everything you read at face value. Know the difference between a reliable source and an illegitimate source. Be willing to listen to reason.


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